I was just in high school when 9/11 happened. Just a naive 15-year-old. I saw the second plane hit, I ran back to tell my mom what was happening. I remember her curling her hair with tears streaming down her face. That day I shared in the shock with the rest of America, I prayed for people, I cried and felt sad. But a month later I was “fine” and couldn’t understand why people were still so upset. The trauma and grief that surrounded me then was too huge for me to understand then and it’s taken years for me to finally process and appreciate the tragedy of that day.
In the last few years I found that I started setting aside the 10th & 11th to sit and watch documentary upon documentary, to feel thoroughly immersed in the emotional turmoil of that day. It’s not that I am “fascinated” or “obsessed” with the tragedy – it’s because it feels important to me to remember what happened. Watching documentaries also helps me re-connect to that deep sense of national grief, of unity, a certainty that there is good and bad in this world despite so much gray.
The point is I feel within myself a deep need to remember the horrifying tragedy of that day, the senseless loss, the families and communities shattered, and the nation rocked. And this is how grief works, we are compelled by it to remember, to ache, and to ultimately see the beauty of life and the value of good lives.
I grieve 9/11 now, 12 years later, more profoundly than I did in 2001, 2 or 3.
I remember in the days after 9/11 driving around in Long Beach and seeing the evening streets faintly lit with the candle light of mourners, gathered on dirty street corners to show that they were broken-hearted. It seemed that they wanted to help somehow but the only thing they could do right then was to light a candle, to hold up a light of hope in a world that seemed much, much darker. My water-colory memory of that night has always meant something, stirred something in my soul and made me grateful to be an American.
Now I see 9/11 as a kind of sacred day where I put aside my daily need for Starbucks, close the fun new book I’m reading, pocket my Disneyland pass, and I sit, in silent reverence, paying tribute to the heroes lost.
I don’t know how normal this is, if other people do it, or if some year I won’t feel the need – but I know that I’ve needed it these last few years and I can feel my heart wandering to it again on this 12 year anniversary.
As a culture it seems that we like to steer away from grief in general, there’s the spoken or unspoken push to “get through it” to “let time heal you” – but for those of us who have experienced grief, we know none of those things are fair. Grief goes on for years, decades, and if we’re honest, for the rest of our lives.
I read recently in “The Funeral” (a gem of a book) by Doug Manning that, “A nation that does not honor its dead will ultimately lose its reverence for life.” (44). I think our nation does an excellent job in commemorating the lives lost on 9/11 and I’m so touched by the traditional name reading and ceremony that takes place on that site every year.
9/11 isn’t confined to just itself, it has become a symbol of all the heroes raised up and martyred in their desire to help, for the victims of senseless crimes, for the families broken in the wake of tragedy, for the evil in our lives that we must defeat.
9/11 is worthy of your time and of your remembrance. I know it’s hard, but all the good and valuable things we do in this life are hard. Take some time today & remember.